Sickness certification difficulties in Ireland—a GP focus group study

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Abstract

Background

Sickness certification causes problems for general practitioners (GPs). Difficulty with the assessment of capacity to work, conflict with patients and other non-medical factors have been shown to influence GPs’ decision-making. Inadequate leadership and management of certification issues add to GPs’ difficulties.

Aims

To explore problems associated with sickness certification, as part of a larger mixed method research project exploring GPs’ experiences and perceptions of sickness certification in Ireland.

Methods

A qualitative study in an urban region of Ireland. A focus group of four male and four female GPs explored problems encountered by GPs in certifying sickness absence. Thematic data analysis was used.

Results

Three major themes emerged: perception of the sickness certification system, organization of health care and cultural factors in sickness absence behaviour. Employment structures in public and private sectors and lack of communication with other health care providers and employers were identified as complicating sickness certification.

Conclusions

GPs encounter a complexity of issues in sick certification and are dissatisfied with their role in certifying sickness absence. Our results open the debate for policy change and development in Ireland.

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